It was a confident Daniele Pradè who opened the new season with a press conference which cleared up any issues or doubts. It was only to be expected that there would be questions about the Torreira saga, as nobody from the club had commented on the situation, but when the very first question touched on that subject, it got off to a rocky start.
Pradè had already began by commenting on the previous season, on how well the team did, but admitting that he didn’t see a great response from outside the club, a reference to the media rather than the fans. He lamented that there hadn’t been a great warmth towards the team, the manager, or the club. So, when the first question came, Pradè again criticised the fact that this was what they wanted to talk about, and that as soon as the season ended this controversy had erupted. Once the room calmed down, he explained what had happened between Fiorentina and Lucas Torreira.
“I’ll explain the story in a simple way. I strongly pushed for the player to come to Fiorentina. I knew the player well, we worked together at Sampdoria, and he gave us certain guarantees from a technical point of view, which was what we needed at the time. He should be thanked for what he gave us, he had a great season. In early April, I called him… to agree the loan with a right to buy we had put in the sum of 15 million with Arsenal. We had agreed a four-year salary at 2.75 million per year. I called him in April and asked him to add another year to the contract which would have cost us a total of 30 million between his signing and wages, as we offered 2.5 with bonuses for five years. Therefore, it doesn’t seem to me that a lower offer was made, quite the contrary. That’s when the agent, and the player closed down the deal, in a clear manner. Something changed in the relationship and in the last month and a half of the season Amrabat played really well, giving guarantees to the club and the manager. At this point it became a technical choice, do we choose Torreira or Amrabat? Together, we decided on Amrabat, from a technical point of view. As for what went on in the locker room, those are dressing room events so it’s right that they remain there.”
With the signing of Rolando Mandragora now official, Pradè spoke about his arrival: “Rolando can give us a lot on a technical level, he can play in any part of the midfield. I know him well, and from a character point of view he is a top player. I think he can improve a lot with our coach, and we are very happy with the purchase. He’ll be a very positive person for both Fiorentina and Florence.”
As for Luka Jović and Dodô, with the signings not yet completed, Pradè obviously couldn’t say too much: “With regard to Jović I can confirm we are still in discussions. We like him a lot, there’s no point in denying that, but from experience I have to say we need to wait until the deal is closed. The same goes for Dodô, I don’t know if we will be able to close in the next couple of days, but we are very interested.” Positive signs then, and especially when it comes to Jović it looks like the deal is almost done.
When it came to the financial side of things and what limits they have, he was very precise: “When we arrived, the wage bill was 50 million and a large squad to reduce in size. Income dropped from around 91 million to 80 million because of Covid. In 2021/22 we had a wage bill of around 70 million. When it comes to investment, if a player is strong, Fiorentina can look for him, but in terms of wages we cannot compete yet with the bigger clubs. We can’t have a situation where there is a large difference in players’ salaries. The UEFA salary gap measure is also a serious matter and will have to be respected, where the wage bill cannot be over 70% of a club’s income.”
As for the club’s objectives, Pradè said that naturally every club wants to improve on what they’ve already achieved. The goal is to do better and better, to have certainties, which results from already having done a good job and that is where they want to recommence. The club doesn’t have a strict objective in mind.
With Fiorentina soon to begin their European adventure, he also spoke about the Conference League: “Nobody could have expected that the new competition would have had such a good response. Roma’s victory confirms that we need to commit to it, and we want to do that in the best possible way. We’re working to have a large enough squad, with two players per position, at more or less the same level. We will have three competitions because we also want to aim for the Coppa Italia, and we will try to get it done quickly.”
As for the formula of the Jović signing, which has now strongly been reported as becoming more of a permanent move on a free transfer than a loan deal, he could only say that any hypothesis is possible as they are still working on it, but he is definitely a player that they want. With a smile he also confirmed that there were no problems with his own contract at the club.
There is still the question of the Nikola Milenković situation to resolve: “The guy has been here for five years now, last year it was a gesture of love for him to stay here. We turned down a serious offer from England. We agreed that we would try to reach Europe, but if an important offer was to arrive, we couldn’t say no this time, but there is a great relationship between Niko and the club, and we will decide together.”
The renewal of Vincenzo Italiano’s contract was another controversial theme earlier this summer: “His renewal was our first objective, and we never had any doubts. Situations arose from outside, but we never stopped discussions. There were no set time limits because we had no doubts. He has clear ideas and an excellent relationship with Rocco Commisso and Joe Barone. We like the way he works, and the team follows him. We couldn’t ask for any better than that.”
Now came the chance to reply to the other names mentioned in recent days in relation to Fiorentina, especially Dennis Praet and Riqui Puig: “Praet and Puig? We’re not interested and have never entered into discussions. I know Praet very well, his agent has always been a good friend of mine, but he doesn’t have the characteristics we are looking for. Puig, we’ve never even thought about him.
Asked about the midfield and the situation with Żurkowski: “We have five midfielders, plus Castrovilli. As for Żurkowski, we want to take a look at him, we’re very curious. Many clubs are interested so we want to evaluate him ourselves. For now, he’s with us, and there’s no need to rush, it’s only July 5th. Everything we do is done together, the club and the manager, if it goes well then, we’ll all be right, if not, then we’ll all have failed.”
One of the main players spoken about earlier this summer was Florian Grillitsch, but that ship has definitely sailed: “He was a player at the end of his contract, so we were interested, it could have been a good opportunity. I’ll admit I was wrong when I spoke about agents in a general way, but here I didn’t like the discussions with his father, looking for payments etc. We are an attractive club for agents because Fiorentina pays everyone, and on time. When you see the league table of commission payments, why are we at the top? Because we pay them, always, without looking for discounts. Then came the Mandragora idea, and we took another path. However, when it came to Grillitsch, the problem wasn’t the agent.”
Pierluigi Gollini now looks set to return to Fiorentina: “We are very close; we hope to have him here soon. When he does sign, we will be very happy. We have an excellent relationship with Atalanta, we will try to see each other by the weekend and put pen to paper. As for Luca Ranieri, nothing has been decided. I will meet with his agent Thursday or Friday, and we will discuss it.”
Now I know you all want to know what will happen with Aleksandr Kokorin! “It’s an operation which went wrong. I have always taken responsibility for that. However, in the final few weeks he had done well so with the coach we said let’s see what he can give during the training camp. There is interest, from Russia, but it’s not an easy decision to return there, so he will come with us for pre-season and let’s see. As for a termination of his contract that will need to be agreed on both sides.”
Speaking about other players already in the squad: “We are happy with Igor. This year he had a great season, he played a lot and showed his growth. Obviously, he still has a lot to prove. He still has two years left on his contract, which could become three with the option to renew, so we’re quite calm and I don’t see his renewal as a priority for now. With Drągowski we are looking together for something that suits everyone. I’m very attached to Drago, so I want to find the right solution for his future. We looked at a lot of goalkeepers, with certain characteristics that the manager agreed with. If it ends up being Gollini, then it means we have chosen him together.”
Christian Kouamé is back at the club for now, and after doing well at Anderlecht, he is another player that will be evaluated. Pradè denied there were already any swap deals in place with another club. He then decided it was time to clear up another thorny issue around Torreira: “someone said that he didn’t play the final game because of a bonus of fifty thousand euro. In your opinion, does Fiorentina, who are trying to qualify for Europe, not let Torreira play because of fifty thousand? I’ll let you know, any player who remained with us and narrowly missed out on their objective for a bonus, we will still pay them. If Torreira had stayed, instead of 50,000 we would have given him 100,000.”
There have been rumours about many Covid cases among the squad, after their tests yesterday. Pradè admitted that there were some mildly positive cases, and they would be re-tested, but he wasn’t worried, as he said, better now than later. With the Conference League play-offs in mind, he was asked about any friendly games which may be arranged. There wouldn’t be any in Florence, but they are working on some ideas. The last possible date for any games would be August 6th and he shot down the rumours that Fiorentina would take part in the Gamper Trophy hosted by Barcelona.
Asked which player he expected more improvement from this season, he responded with Andrea Sottil, but he meant his son, Riccardo. He’s expecting a lot from him this time around. There was time for a few final names to be thrown at Pradè. They have never been interested in Nedim Bajrami, while Marlon is a player they like, but being a non-European player, it makes it more difficult with just two places available. Marcos Senesi plays on the left so would not be considered as a potential replacement for Milenković. As for Andrea Belotti, again they have never looked for him and Pradè doesn’t even know who his agent is.
With that, Daniele Pradè was gone, off to work some more of his magic to strengthen our squad for the season ahead. Many had wondered when he would come out and speak, as Rocco Commisso had mentioned it in his last press conference. When it was finally announced, many wondered why speak now. I think it was the perfect time, the squad is just getting back together for pre-season, the transfer window has opened, and there were some situations, like Torreira, which like it or not, needed clearing up.
I certainly haven’t always agreed with Daniele Pradè’s work, but this time around, so far, I’ve been impressed. I was also impressed with this press conference, where, after a shaky start, he cleared up a lot of doubts, admitting to some of the deals in progress while rubbishing many others. We now have a clearer idea of the direction the club is taking, and the reasons why.
This was a more confident, concise Daniele Pradè. None of the usual ‘the squad is complete’ type of comments, with a lot of work already done and ambitions for the future. The club, as in January, have begun early, which will help Italiano and have new players ready when the action begins.
The fixture calendar has been released, the players and Vincenzo Italian are back together, some new arrivals are on the way, Pradè has spoken, and today the European Conference League kicks off. It’s official, the 2022/23 season is upon us, now it’s time to let Italiano work his magic, even with Kokorin, and other players returning, just look at what he did with Riccardo Saponara last time. The Fiorentina future is bright, and we’re in for another entertaining, exciting, eventful season.